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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Candle

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CANDLE.—Candles were not much in use in an oil-bearing country like Palestine, and are not referred to in the Bible. But the word occurs in the Authorized Version 8 times as the translation of λύχνος (‘lamp’); and λυχνία (‘lampstand’) is always translated ‘candlestick.’ [On the other hand, λαμπάς, which is generally translated by its derivative ‘lamp,’ should be rendered either ‘torch’ or ‘lantern’; for it generally refers to a lamp which could be carried out of doors (Matthew 25:1 ff., John 18:3, and even Acts 20:8, where the λαμπάδες ἱκαναὶ may have been torches that had been brought in by those who had assembled by night), thus corresponding to Heb. לַפִּיד].

The λύχνος (Heb. נֵד, נִיר, the latter used only in a figurative sense) was, as a rule, an earthenware vessel, like a tiny flat teapot, with a flaxen wick (Matthew 12:20) in the spout, and supplied with oil (mostly from olives, but also from sesame, nuts, radishes, or fish), through a hole in the centre, from an ἀγγείον (Matthew 25:4) or other vessel. It could either be carried about (Luke 15:8) or set on a stand (Mark 4:21 etc.). For illustrations of lamps see Hastings’ B [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , vol. iii. p. 34.

In the teaching of the Son of Man the illuminating sign of God’s presence in the world is human example and personal witness, as, e.g., in the ministry of John the Baptist (John 5:35). The Christian life is to be one that lightens and kindles others (Mark 4:21), and points men to the ‘Father of lights’ (Matthew 5:16). It must, therefore, first be itself lit. That is the key to the difficult passage in Matthew 6:22 f., Luke 11:34 f. Light may be everywhere, yet it is of no use unless received by the eye, which is the lamp of the body. Sin makes a man see dimly or double, and must be renounced with an undivided mind if the life is to be illumined with Divine truth and love (Expos., 2nd ser. i. [1881] 252 ff.; cf. 180 ff., 372 ff.).

But one other important quality Christ illustrated by the use of the lamp, viz. watchfulness. It was the custom in private houses, as well as in the temple, to keep lamps burning through the night (Proverbs 31:18). So, in view of the subtlety and suddenness of temptation and trial, the disciple must have his loins girded and his lamp lit (Luke 12:35). The parable of the Ten Virgins with their λαμπάδες teaches a similar lesson. Of Christ as the Lamb it is said that He is Himself the lamp (λύχνος) of the Holy City (Revelation 21:23).

A. Norman Rowland.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Candle'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/c/candle.html. 1906-1918.

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